Monday, June 27, 2011

Bidwell Mansion

Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park is another of the Parks scheduled to be closed at the end of the year.

It was built in 1868, about 15 years and 50 miles from the Ide Adobe which I wrote about in February.  Close in time and place but worlds away in comfort and convenience.

Both of these historic sites are on the State Park closure list.
In 1841, John Bidwell was one of the first Americans to cross the Sierra and settle in the Sacramento Valley.  He made his money as a miner and merchant but his true interest was in agriculture and public service.  Along with his wife Annie, he championed women's suffrage.  He donated land for the establishment of a normal school which today is California State University, Chico.

This was a thoroughly modern home for it's time.  The heated air from an alcohol lamp below the fan rose, turning the fan in the days before electricity.

The house had running water and flush toilets.

The globes face up because these were originally gas lamps.  The valves can be seen on the tubes that both support the lamps and supply the gas.

When electricity became available they were converted to that power source.

There was even a built-in oven.  Everything was up to date in this home.

It was a large house for a couple with no children but they entertained the notable people of their time: President and
Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, Civil War General
William Tecumseh Sherman and naturalist
John Muir were some of the guests in this gracious home.

It is unfortunate that the citizens of California are willing to see their parks close.  These historic sites are a window into the past for those who assume there were always modern conveniences.  The Ide Adobe and Bidwell Mansion together show both the evolution of modern life and the vast difference in life between the poor and the affluent, something that is not always obvious today when almost everyone seems to have an i-pod and a cell phone, even if they don't have a home to put them in. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shadows and Reflection

Last month I noticed these great shadows and reflection at the entrance to our community lodge.  I guess I could link it to SkyWatch as well but will limit it to 
Weekend Reflections, Hosted by James
Shadow Shot Sunday, hosted by Tracy

Monday, June 20, 2011

Birding at Eagle Lake

I am a relative newcomer to birding and birding wasn't on my mind when I decided we should camp at Eagle Lake in north eastern California.  While the grebes I shared last week were certainly the highlight, they were far from the only birds we saw.
There were water birds
I watched this pair of mergansers cruise by an American White Pelican.

This tern flew by me so close I've done almost no cropping on this.  At 300mm I couldn't focus on the whole bird and had no time to zoom out.  That is an unusual problem for me when photographing birds!



Western Tanagers were common in the campground.  These colorful birds are hard to miss but given the cloudy sky and dense forest I needed a high ISO and large aperture resulting in a lack of sharpness.  

What every birder enjoys, whether a newbie like me or an old hand, a new bird to add to the life list.  I got two this trip.
This little guy I believe is a brown creeper.  I felt lucky to spot him as he is well camouflaged.

The White-Headed Woodpecker is another new bird for my list.  This is a female as it lacks the red patch on the back of the head.

Yes, there are eagles at Eagle Lake.  I caught sight of this guy towards the end of the day.  In addition to the eagle there were osprey.  We have camped a lot of places but never seen such a variety of bird life.  I saw other birds as well, a Yellow Rump Warbler and another bird I couldn't identify.

We had a bit of excitement, too.  Some children playing with matches set fire to a tree.  There was a lot of discussion among the campers as to what to do about it.  I had a hose but it wasn't long enough, eventually someone did come up with a suitable hose and by the time CalFire arrived the fire was out.  The professionals leave nothing to chance they sprayed it with water, trenched around the tree and soaked the ground.  They stayed for several hours and then repeated the soaking.

See more views of the world at That's My World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.
You can find more birds of the world ant World Bird Wednesday, hosted by Springman.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grebe Courtship

Viewing the courtship display of Western Grebes has been high on my bucket list.  When we chose to camp at Eagle Lake in Northern California I didn't realize that the lake hosted a large population of the birds nor did I know that this was the time when they were pairing up.
When we went to the marina it was quickly apparent what was going on and we were treated to the full repertoire of breeding display.

According to the "Birder's Handbook" there are four different elements to the courtship display.  We witnessed all of them but I only got pictures of three.

The first shown here is weed dancing.  The birds stand up in the water each holding a piece of plant in its beak.

Unlike ducks and geese, the grebes' legs are far back on the body allowing them to stretch far out of the water.  They can hold that stance for quite a while.

Bob preening looks almost choreographed.

 First one and then the other will bob its head down in a preening motion.

Dip shaking, which I didn't get a picture of, is similar but the birds dip their head in the water and then shake of the drops.

The most exciting part of the display is rushing.  The birds run across the water.
Eventually one falls back into the water and the other one stops.  I wonder if they are saying to each other "look how strong I am, I can help you feed a large brood"?

We saw a great variety of birds at Eagle Lake, both in the water and in the woods.  Some were new to me and I'll show those in a latter post.

A word on the "Birder's Handbook", if you enjoy birding and aren't familiar with this wonderful guide you might want to check it out.  It isn't a field guide, it has no pretty pictures, but tells you where the birds nest, what they eat, which parents care for the young and has lots of information on bird biology and bird behavior.

I've linked this post to World Bird Wednesday, hosted by Springman.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Railtown 1897

Railtown 1897 is one of the California State Parks on the closure list.  We want to visit as many of the parks on the list as possible and since we love trains this was a good place to start.

We chose May 21 for our visit because they would be using the recently restored engine #3 for their Saturday excursion.  Currently the park is open daily but the train runs only on Saturday and Sunday for a six mile round trip.

We arrived early so that we could see them back the engine onto the turntable.  Steam from the locomotive is used to operate the turntable.

After fueling it's backed up to the old water tank.  This is the same water tank seen in the TV show "Petticoat Junction"
Although it is a state park, all of this work is done by volunteers.

This little car follows the train down the track to check for fires.  I couldn't help but wonder what was done in the days when all railroads were operated by steam.  I suspect that a lot of fires went undetected until the next train came along.

A visit to Railtown is a like a step back in time.  Volunteers in period dress add to the ambiance.
The state hopes to find partners to take over the parks it will close. Considering the amount of work already done by volunteers and the economic value to the town of Jamestown, I think it likely that this park will continue to operate.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Rock Wren
I was pleased with the image quality of some of my recent backyard bird photos so I cropped them to make bird portraits. 

This little guy had been teasing me for over two years.  He seems to live around the rock retaining wall near the trash cans.  Of course I don't take my camera when I am taking out the trash and when I would go out with my camera he was never around.  Finally, bird and camera were both in the same place.

If you enlarge this you can see the texture in the feathers.  It was well worth the wait.

California Quail

 I see quail in my yard almost every day and have many images but this, I think is my best.  I'm not sure it can be improved on

Hen Turkey

Not a common backyard visitor but on a recent rainy day I spotted this solitary turkey just beyond my yard.  You might notice raindrops were falling on her head, mine too for that matter.  She was a wet hen but didn't seem to be a mad one.

Turkeys are usually in flocks but this was the second time I've seen this one out by herself.

Tree Swallow

One of the most challanging things about photographing the tree swallow is its eyes.  Those black eyes tend to disappear into the dark blue green of the feathers.  I took dozens of images trying to get a highlight in the eye.

I had some better poses and backgrounds but they lacked the nice highlights of this image.

You can find more birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosted for us by Springman

Monday, June 6, 2011

Feats of Clay Ceramics Competition

I promised pictures of some of the entries in the "Feats of Clay".  There were so many wonderful pieces of art I had to pick just a few to share, actually, quite a few.

It would be hard to pick a favorite, but this would be at the top of my list.  I found it to be an amazing 

There was a lot of variety, some were whimsical.

Some showed such an amazing 
realism, it was hard to believe that they were made of clay.

Others invited contemplation.

The presentation of the works was unusual.  Some were shown in a warehouse section of the building, surrounded by pieces of Gladding McBean's own ceramics, the rest were displayed in one of the beehive kilns.

The human mind is amazing, what a variety of ways it can find to mold a piece of clay!

You can find more interesting views of our world at That's My World, Tuesday, hosted by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Storm Watch

My backyard has a great view for storm watching and last evening there was a lot to watch.  We didn't see any tornadoes but two were spotted in the valley west and north of us.   
See more views of the sky at SkyWatch Friday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.